This is how our tenth anniversary season kicked off . . .
It feels like just yesterday, doesn’t it? Yet here we are, feet planted squarely in the off-season. Even though the journey was fleeting, it yielded a treasure trove of memories, as journeys of this nature always do. Lets cherish the last few memories together, as we celebrate a new champion, and the end of another fun season.
I arrived at the field about an hour before our Noon start time, to get everything set up, only to find a rather large group of people already there, drinking, and eager start playing bocce. The excitement was palpable.
Black Jesus came equipped with extra large Smirnoff Ice’s with which they would “ice” their first round opponents.
Various other pleasantries and trash talk was exchanged, then, the games started – promptly at Noon.
Shortly after the play began we got a visit from the Syracuse Silver Knights mascot. If you don’t know, the Syracuse Silver Knights are Syracuse’s professional soccer team, and they play in the War Memorial. The Knight came to announce a collaboration between Turbo Bocce and the Silver Knights that is going to take the form of a huge bocce ball tournament in the War Memorial before a Silver Knight’s game, with the winners being honored at half time.
Round of 16
1 seed Black Jesus vs. 16 seed Amerika’z Least Wanted
Vegas gave Black Jesus an 80% chance of winning this game, but Amerika’z Least Wanted defeated the defending Turbo Bocce champions in the previous round so they are obviously a team capable of greatness.
In this case though, Vegas was right. Black Jesus was the team that played great on this day and they won the series in two games to advance to the round of eight.
24 seed Blue Balls vs. 40 seed Let the Big Dogs Eat
Vegas chose and outright upset in this one. Giving the 40 seed Let the Big Dogs Eat a 52% chance of victory over the 24 seed Blue Balls.
Vegas was right again. Even though Vegas came up wrong in nearly every game last week, we have to give them some credit. They picked few outright upsets (where the lower seed had an over 50% chance of victory) but each and every time they did, that lower seed came out victorious.
4 seed Whipple & John vs. 13 seed Droppin Balls
Vegas gave Whipple & John a 63% chance of victory, not taking into account that this was arguably the marquee game of the round of 16.
The game played out like the marquee game it was rather than the game with an obvious favorite that Vegas predicted. Droppin Balls started strong in the first game (to say the least) taking an 8-0 lead, but Whipple and John finished the first game strong (to say the least) scoring the next 11 points and winning 11-8.
Droppin Balls straightened out whatever went wrong for them in the first game, and won the second game.
The third game was as close as you might expect with Whipple & John squeaking out victory in the end, making Droppin Balls regret the fact that they had the first game (and what turned out would have been the series) all but locked up, before letting it out of their grasp.
18 seed Ralph Bocce-O vs. 34 seed Misison Imbocceball
Vegas gave Ralph Bocce-O a 57% chance of victory, but Mission Imbocceball were bigger underdogs that that in the last round where they upset the number 2 seed Easy Duz It.
Mission Imbocceball proved last week’s win was no fluke by beating Ralph Bocce-O in two games. The first by an impressive 11-3 score, then proving they can win the tough games by squeaking out a 12-10 overtime win.
10 seed Los Moppines vs. 7 seed Conquistadores
This was the closest game (by seed) of the first round. Vegas gave the Conquistadores a slight 53% chance of victory.
Los Moppines looked like they were ready to blow what should have been a close series out of the water, by winning the first game 11-0, but sometimes first games can be misleading, as this one was. Conquistadors came back to win the second game 11-7, and the third game was as close as they come.
Los Moppines did end up winning, but it took everything they had to produce a 12-10 overtime victory.
3 seed Breakfast of Champions vs. 19 seed One Eyed Fish
Vegas gave Breakfast of Champions a 67% chance of victory against the team that they beat in this same round last year. One Eyed Fish were out for revenge.
In the first round Breakfast of Champions looked like the favorite they were predicted to be by winning 11-2, but in the second round One Eyed Fish found their form. They were in control the entire game on route to an 11-7 victory. In the second game Breakfast of Champions stepped up their play, but One Eyed Fish continued to stay hot, and their hot play was enough to pull off the biggest upset of the round of 16 with an impressive 11-8 victory.
38 seed Ball Don’t Lie vs. 54 seed Steal Your Face
Vegas gave Ball Don’t Lie a 97% chance of victory, but Steal Your Face had already overcome similar odds twice in this tournament.
This time, however, the odds caught up to them. After a really impressive run to the sweet 16 Steal Your Face went down to the heavy favorites in two games.
Round of 8
1 seed Black Jesus vs. 40 seed Let the Big Dogs Eat
This game pitted a team with a 41.9% chance of winning the championship against a team with a 1.4% chance of winning the championship, but Let the Big Dogs Eat were game, and ready to compete.
Chris Devins of Let the Big Dog’s Eat was dialed in when it came to bocces, consistently knocking out Black Jesus’s shots, while Zach Parmely of Let the Big Dogs Eat was able to put his shots in for points. That’s a pretty good combination, and Let the Big Dogs Eat won the first game.
Black Jesus, though, went 26-4 this year for a reason. They are not easy to beat once, and almost impossible to beat twice. Phil Martino and George Christou stepped their game up a notch in game two and managed to stay in control the whole time, eventually getting the win.
Momentum held in game three and Black Jesus looked in control. Especially when they had a point in, and three balls left to add to that one. Four points would have won Black Jesus the game, but they did not convert all four, giving Let the Big Dogs Eat a second chance at life. A chance that Let the Big Dogs Eat took full advantage of. Chipping away at Black Jesus’ lead one point at a time and extending the game into extra bocce. It took almost an hour for Black Jesus to get the win they missed out on early on, but they eventually did it. Winning the marathon third game 14-12.
4 seed Whipple & John vs. 21 seed Under My Ella
Vegas gave Whipple & John a 9.2% chance of becoming champions while Under My Ella had a 2.1% chance.
Under My Ella was the only team to receive a forfeit into the round of 8, so their first game of the day turned out to be quite a challenge.
The video should give a small hint as to just how big a challenge it was. Whipple and John played great, and won the series in two games.
10 seed Los Moppines vs. 34 seed Mission Imbocceball
Los Moppines were given a 5.1% chance to emerge as champions by Vegas while Mission Imbocceball were given just a 0.8% chance.
Vegas missed on Mission Imbocceball.
With Krystal rolling with perfect precision and Brett bombing the high arcing backspin shots, there wasn’t a safe for opponents to put the pallino.
Unfortunately for them, (but fortunately for all the onlookers) they ran into a red hot Los Moppines team and the result was the unquestionable match of the day.
Krystal and Brett ruthlessly made shot after shot, but Griffo showed why he lead the league in bocces this year by aerially knocking their shots out (as you can see in the video below).
This was not a one time occurrence. I recall Brett mentioning at one time that Greg was 11 for 12 in knock out shots. Since we don’t keep stats for the playoffs I can only guess as to how many bocces Greg had by the end of the series, but I am pretty sure the all time bocce record would have fallen.
Behind Greg’s bocces, Los Moppines won the first game, and in spite of them, Mission Imbocceball won the second. The third game came right down to the end, but after a fight Los Moppines won and advanced. In some games, both teams are winners, and this was one of those games.
19 seed One Eyed Fish vs. 38 seed Ball Don’t Lie
Vegas gave One Eyed Fish a 0.8% chance of winning the title, and they gave Ball Don’t Lie a 9.1% chance despite being 19 seeds lower.
While One Eyed Fish was bocce perfection against Breakfast of Champions, they ran out of steam in the second round. Having made it to the final four last year, Ball Don’t Lie, had no problems in that department, and won the series two games to zero.
Round of 4
1 seed Black Jesus vs. 4 seed Whipple & John
The left side of the bracket went according to chalk and the two top seeds emerged. This was an interesting game for several reasons. First, the two teams have a history. Whipple & John are the only team that defeated Black Jesus is a series this year, and they did it to stop Black Jesus from breaking (or tying) the all time win record they set just last year. On top of that, Phil and George have met up with Whipple in two different championship games, with each winning one.
But the most interesting element of this match, to me, is the clash of styles. Black Jesus prefers to play relatively short (say 15 to 20 feet) and generate a lot of bocces, while Whipple and John prefer to play long and bomb in good shots that have a very small chance of getting knocked out. Last year the teams that played long had the most success, with Whipple & John leading the way. This year, however, the teams that play a little shorter and roll their balls in, seem to have the advantage, with Black Jesus leading the way.
As far as how this game went, I have to say it was one of the strangest games you will see. Whipple & John took an 8-0 lead, but it didn’t last. Black Jesus have had a knack for coming from behind all year long, and they did it again in this game. Eventually winning 12-10. In the second game, Whipple & John won big, 11-2. In, the third, Black Jesus won big, 11-1, winning the series and forcing Whipple & John to regret the eight point lead they let slip away.
10 seed Los Moppines vs. 38 seed Ball Don’t Lie
This game was another clash of styles with Los Moppines preferring the short bocce filled game, and Ball Don’t Lie throwing the pallino much further.
Los Moppines came into this game red hot, and kept it going, with two straight wins to get them into the finals.
3rd Place Game
4 seed Whipple & John vs. 38 seed Ball Don’t Lie
These teams are both championship quality, so I am sure they were both disappointed to be playing in the third place game, still, the winner of this game got the not-too-shabby consolation prize of $100. This game really showed that while Vegas’s predictions were not so great in each individual game, their long haul predictions were spot on. Ball Don’t Lie had a 9.1% chance of winning the title despite being the 38th seed. That was the fourth highest chance any team had, and guess what? Ball Don’t Lie finished fourth. Whipple & John had a 9.2% chance of winning the title, which was the third best percentage, just a tenth of a point ahead of Ball Don’t Lie. And Whipple & John finished third, by barely beating Ball Don’t Lie in the consolation game.
Both teams like to play far, and both teams are good at it. You can see in the following video that there was a good, better, best, kind of sequence to the shots.
Whipple & John won the first game. Ball Don’t Lie came back and won the second game. This one was close all the way through, with Whipple & John squeaking out the third game in extra bocce.
Even though this was really a nice victory, Whipple & John were happy about it. They took the money anyway though.
As for Ball Don’t Lie, this is their second trip to the final four in their two years playing Turbo Bocce which puts them in some pretty elite company. They are one of only a handful of teams to ever make the final four in two straight years, and they are one of only three teams to make the final four in every year they have played. Joining the Tipp Hill Tossers who made the finals every year they were together, and Pullout Couches who won the championship their only year in the league.
1 seed Black Jesus vs. 10 seed Los Moppines
In case you are wondering who to emulate next year, look no farther. Both of these teams played short games with anchors capable of getting lots of bocces. Greg Griffo the Los Moppines anchor had 65 bocces this year to lead the league, while Phil Martino of Black Jesus finished sixth in bocces with 47.
Los Moppines came into this game playing better bocce than anyone else, and Black Jesus came in as the number 1 seed, the heavy Vegas favorite, and the champion of the Bracket of Death. Everything was set up for a great game.
The first game, though, did not look so great. Black Jesus cruised to an 11-1 victory playing without ever needing to bring their “A” game. Most people thought it would be over quickly at this point. Most people were wrong.
In the second game Los Moppines found their stride, took control of the game, and kept it all the way to a victory.
The sun began to set as the third game of the series and final Turbo Bocce game of the year commenced.
Los Moppines took a quick three point lead that threatened to turn decisive as they had a ball in for a fourth point with only one ball left for Black Jesus. Phil Martino had the throw and made it count. Bocceing out Los Moppines point, and bocceing in three of his own teams points in one go.
With that one fateful ball, the score stood tied at 3-3 instead of Los Moppines having a big 4-0 lead. From this point on the game was even.
It stood tied at 7-7 when darkness descended fully and the game had to move into the small radius of light we have available.
Los Moppines took a 9-7 lead in the dark, but Black Jesus countered to make it 9-9.
With the scored tied 9-9 and everything on the line, Black Jesus made the bold move of playing a long 40+ foot shot in the dark. It paid off.
Los Moppines were not able to overcome George Christou’s good first shot, and Phil Martino followed that up with the second game clinching and championship clinching point. Black Jesus won the title 11-9.
Both teams played like champions under difficult circumstances after a marathon eight hour tournament, but that’s how it should be. Winning a Turbo Bocce championship is NOT easy.
Black Jesus vindicated Vegas’ predictions and also gave poetic symmetry to Turbo Bocce’s tenth season. In case you didn’t know, they won Turbo Bocce’s first ever championship then came full circle to win their second on our tenth anniversary.
Black Jesus are now a member of a pretty exclusive club. Only they and the Tipp Hill Tossers have ever won two.
As for George and Phil personally. George becomes the first person to ever win two Playoff MVP awards, and Phil has perhaps won more this year than anybody ever has (more on that later).
One last note. Angelo Isgro and Angela Morosini need some credit. They each officiated every match of the tournament from the first through the last, for all eight hours. They each made tons of tough calls, put up with (unwarranted) complaints. and did a really fantastic job officiating. Thanks guys, the league owes you!